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The Power of Self-Leadership

An homage to my little sister

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For me, my sister Joni (Joan to most others) has become a poster child for the power of self-leadership and self-development.

I’m not sure when it started. I became aware of it after her divorce from a 30+ year emotionally abusive marriage. I had no idea of her pain and suffering. She hid it well. And now she had to find a new home, a new job, and create new personal and professional identities. Even create a different narrative for her grown children about her relationship with their dad. That was a lot to take on.

She began to reach out to me, asking to talk about the challenges she was facing, seeking perspective and a different way to think and feel about things. As a leadership and personal coach, listening with empathy and curiosity was something I could do well. Our discussions were far ranging, personal and deeply moving to me. It was obvious she recognized the limitations of her worldview and was motivated to upgrade, even if she didn’t know exactly how. She also began to see a therapist, a chiropractor/acupuncturist and a holistic doctor/kinesiologist, all in the interest of better knowing and healing herself, making new interpretive choices and taking different, more aligned, actions. Life got harder but better. She began to notice and connect dots in new ways, making new sense, moving and releasing old energy stored uncomfortably in her body.

Her journey of self-leadership and self-discovery further accelerated five years ago when our mother passed away. For more than the next three years, Joni and I would spend Sunday afternoons at our parents’ apartment, sorting and cataloguing and discarding … and talking. We would go out to dinner… and continue to talk. She was working hard, making new sense, confronting old triggers, recasting old stories in new ways, seeing with fresh eyes. She noticed that her map wasn’t the only possible map, and that it certainly wasn’t (the same as) the territory. Insights emerged, opportunities recognized and taken for different choices, chances to act courageously despite the weight of the past and fear of an unknown future. Many choices were extremely uncomfortable and seemed to threaten her very survival. In fact, what was at risk was her old identity and the coherent fortress of narrative she had built to maintain it.

Joni has persisted in her intentional reinvention. Along the way, she has navigated rethinking and developing better, more adult-like, relationships with her children, building a closer relationship with our older brother, making thoughtful, aligned decisions about work and office politics, creating a new relationship to food and eating, continuing to conduct compelling interviews as Election Integrity and Senior Editor for Op-Ed News, and dismantling old, less functional patterns of thinking and operating. It’s hard work and demands resilience and heart.

I like that I can bear witness to this and honor her journey. I can offer an appreciative perspective so she can recognize how far she’s come, even while knowing the road still extends before her. I’m glad I can be and act as her big brother now, glad I’m up to the task. What I do, and all I need to do, is be present, listen without judgment, gently challenge old assumptions and beliefs, and encourage her own creativity. She’s doing the heavy lifting. She’s experiencing her agency, reshaping her world, and contributing to others’ better futures. You go, girl!

For any reader, in my opinion, this story could echo your story already unfolding or be a wake-up call for a new beginning. Where might you be dissatisfied or worse with what your ‘business as usual’ is likely to produce? For the sake of what are you willing to put a stake in the ground for change, even transformation? Where are you willing to invest your own sweat equity for the possibility of a better future? Even if you don’t seem to know how? Even if the path forward and next steps are unclear? Where might you be willing and committed to fail and succeed and learn your way towards progress and success? To encourage and lead others to do so too?

Please share what this provokes for you. I would love to include your contribution to this conversation.

#selfleadership #selfdevelopment #resilience

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